Ten Days in Japan, Part 2: Giant Fish and Weather Balloon Bombs

So, actually, our jet lag wasn’t really that bad. Really, it only lasted a day, which turned out for the best because 5:30 in the morning is actually the perfect time to hit up the Tsukiji Fish Market, the biggest fish market in the world. It’s so big in fact that at one point, we actually kind of got lost in it, in the sense that we could not for the life of us figure out how to get out. Here’s a video (pay attention to the size of the knife being wielded by the guy at the end):

Also on Day 1 in Tokyo, it was raining so we decided to go to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which is a museum about the history of Tokyo going back to the Edo period. The museum had a number of very interesting exhibits, which were explained to us via our own personal English-speaking guide, but the most important piece of information came at the end. It kind of went like this:

Guide: “And here is a replica of a weather balloon bomb, like the kind used by the Japanese to attack the US in World War II.”
Us
: “…wait, what?”
Guide
: “They were kept secret by the American government so as not to cause panic.”
Us
: “…wait, WHAT?”

Japanese weather balloon bomb. Wait, WHAT?

Yes, it turns out, the Japanese had an experimental program using something called “fire balloon” to send bombs across the Pacific attached to hydrogen balloons. When we asked how the Japanese could aim a weapon like this, the guide told us they couldn’t. The bombs basically dropped wherever the balloon ran out of air. Which is why bombs dropped in places like Utah, Idaho & Nebraska, as well as — and I found this particularly hilarious — many parts of Canada.

How the hell have we never heard of this? I took AP US History & this was definitely not discussed. I am now very suspicious of all weather balloons.

On Day 2 in Tokyo, we went to the Imperial Palace, which turned out to be surprisingly underwhelming, although it did contain an authentic moat, which we obviously attempted to float. What did begin to dawn on us around this time

though is just how young the US is, and just how old Japan is. Tokyo has actually only been the capital of Japan since the mid 1800s; before that it was Kyoto for years & before that, Nara…way back in the 700s. In fact, while we were in Nara this year, they were celebrating the 1300th anniversary of being established as the capital of Japan. Meanwhile, the US will be coming up on our 300th anniversary as a country pretty soon, give or take like 60 more years.

Shibuya Crossing

We also visited a few other popular areas of Tokyo: Shibuya, Harajuku and Rappongi. In Shibuya, we joined the mad rush of people in Shibuya Crossing & walked rapidly past the famous overlooking Starbucks, which featured Yuzu flavored Frappuccino, which I’m a little sad we didn’t get a chance to try (we also did not try the McShrimp at McDonalds).

Finally, on Saturday, we went to the Sumida River (or Sumidagawa) Fireworks Festival, one of the largest fireworks festivals in Japan, which we attended with, literally, one million other people. Seriously, I have never seen so many people. Needless to say, we got nowhere near either the river or the fireworks, which we watched from the streets while eating delicious Japanese street yakitori. Afterwords, we went to a great izakaya (Japanese pub) called Andy’s, which has (awesomely) its own Facebook page and the best scallops I have ever had.

So that was pretty much Tokyo. Next time, Nagoya & Nara, where we saw a man dressed up like Sailor Moon & a Buddha the size of a house, respectively.

-Amy Yen

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